If you are thinking of starting an insect farm to feed your livestock, this article will give you the basics of black soldier fly farming.
An insect mainly seen around food waste and garbage piles must be quite harmful, right?
Well, not always.
Black soldier fly larvae actively rely on such food wastes to get their necessary nutrients, but they are extremely helpful to humans.
In fact, people both consume and farm these insects.
But what is so beneficial about these little creatures? Let us find out.
What Are Black Soldier Flies?
Black soldier flies appear like wasps, but if you look closely, you will notice many notable differences.
For example, black soldier flies have two wings, and wasps have four.
Also, the flies do not possess any stingers.
Black soldier flies are usually found near decaying organic matter like plant material and animal waste.
These insects are found in abundant numbers across South America.
You can also find them in temperate climates across Asia, Europe, and Africa.
They get their name from their shiny black bodies.
Black soldier flies are considered to be highly beneficial, and they offer a wide variety of perks.
But what are these? Let us find out in the next section.
What Are They Good for? Why Are They Farmed?
Here is a small list of things that black soldier flies are good for:
A high-protein food source
Black soldier flies are an excellent source of protein. Dried soldier flies have up to 50% high-grade protein.
In places where there is a lack of quality nutrition foods, farming these flies can help feed humans.
Excellent bird and animal feed
As mentioned above, the larva is an excellent source of protein, and poultry birds like chicken love consuming these protein-packed snacks.
Organic waste management
These insect species are great at consuming and clearing any organic waste.
Having a bunch of black soldier fly larvae can help you deal with food waste and also help you create excellent chicken manure.
People also farm these animals and add them to compost bins to handle food waste.
Setting Up a Black Soldier Fly Farm
Now that you know the various benefits of farming these insects, here are some important instructions to help you set up a black soldier fly farm:
Creating a Habitat
Before getting the flies, you must create a suitable environment for the insects to survive.
The farm must be near a spot with an abundant supply of fresh waste.
The larvae have an enormous diet and will need a lot of fresh food waste to survive and grow healthy.
It is good to select areas near hotels, local markets, restaurants, and food waste handling facilities, as regular fresh waste will keep dropping in.
Do not pick a location that is far away from food waste sources; the larva will require it in high amounts.
Also, to keep these insect species alive, the food supply must be predictable.
Constantly changing the source will make it difficult for the larvae to adjust.
As a result, they will die. Also, food waste must be free of chemicals and pesticides.
Try to avoid places with a lot of noise and dust pollution, as the larvae will not produce the desired results under such conditions.
Adult black soldier fly larvae prefer to live in cool and shaded places.
These insects will not survive or function properly in spots receiving direct sunlight.
Adult flies love to fly around the shade. Try to find a spot that is well-shaded by trees or buildings.
Try avoiding places with high air pollution levels.
A farm shaded by trees is an ideal location. Also, you must keep in mind that the temperature around the farm must be between 75 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit (24 and 30 degrees Celsius).
While selecting the substrate for your black soldier fly farm, you must know the list of items approved by the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF).
- Discarded fruits and vegetables
- Converting Agricultural biomass into feed is also allowed
- Unprocessed animal products like eggs, dairy, and honey.
- By-products of F & V industries
- Raw fish and meat
- Slaughterhouse by-products
Here are a few great starter feeds for your black soldier fly larvae:
A mixture of soybean, corn, and potato waste.
To give the larvae a wholesome amount of nutrients, you can make a mixture of these three things and feed them.
It is a rich source of carbohydrates and proteins.
Feces from poultry birds like ducks and chickens are used as valuable food items for the larvae.
In some cases, you can use the waste of cattle and rabbits. People in the US often use chicken manure to feed the black soldier fly larvae.
If you have a poultry farm, it is easy to access and increases the overall profit.
The wastes of certain freshwater fishes are excellent food items for black soldier fly farms.
In fact, the waste of fish from the Mekong Delta is used in Vietnam as a starter feed for these insects.
Soldier fly larvae consuming fish wastes like intestines are extremely strong and produce high-quality larvae.
Leftover cashew fruit
When the cashew nuts are harvested, the rest of the fruit goes out as agricultural waste.
The fruit, which is usually thrown away, contains various nutrients, sugars, amino acids, vitamin C, fibers, and more.
These fruits are cheap and can be a nutrient-rich meal for your black soldier flies on the farm.
Setting up the black soldier fly farm is easy if you keep these four things in check.
Once you get the hang of the basics, you are on your way to starting a profitable business.
What Do Black Soldier Fly Larvae Eat?
Black soldier beetle larvae have voracious appetites. These insects will consume anything and everything you put in front of them.
The larvae take charge of composting the wasted nutrients. Consumption of discarded grains, food waste, and manure by larvae is common.
The tiny larva will keep consuming food non-stop until it reaches the pupal stage.
During larval development, these insects can grow to almost 1,000 times their initial size.
These larvae thrive around compost piles and efficiently break down organic material to produce manure and animal remains.
Life Cycle of Black Soldier Flies
Black soldier beetles undergo all four stages of metamorphosis: eggs, larvae, pupae, and adult flies.
After mating, the female flies lay between 500 and 900 eggs.
These eggs hatch within four to five days. However, the result can vary according to region, temperature, and season.
You will be fascinated to know that the larval stage of these insects has six instars.
The larvae can be as small as 0.07 inches at the start and can grow up to 0.78 inches before entering the pupating stages of their life.
Soon after emerging from the eggs, these larvae go on an eating spree; they actively consume organic matter, manure, decaying fruits, and other food waste.
The consumption of food increases after the 3rd instar, and after reaching the 6th instar, the pre-pupation starts.
Here, the insect stops feeding and empties its digestive tract.
They then slowly abandon the food source and migrate to a dry place to start pupating. In about eight days, healthy adults will start emerging from these pupae.
Ironically, the adult black soldier flies do not consume anything; these insects rely on the fat stores built during the larval stage.
These tiny insects do not damage agricultural products or the environment. Neither do they carry diseases like mosquitoes.
Also, the insects will not invade your homes and create problems.
Within 5-6 days of merging as adults, the females will lay a new batch of eggs. Soon after that, they die.
Which Farm Animals Can Eat Black Soldier Flies?
Animal feed can be expensive and hard to access at times.
Black soldier larvae are a cheap and highly accessible form of protein that can be fed to farm animals like chickens and pigs.
Instead of spending more on products like soybeans and fish, you can go for the larvae to provide a protein-packed meal to these farm animals.
These larvae can also be fed to various freshwater fish on the farm.
What Is Their Nutritional Content
The black soldier fly larva is an excellent source of protein.
However, there is more to them than that; they are rich in essential amino acids like lysine, leucine, valine, and histidine.
They are also a good source of Vitamins B1, B2, and C.
Fascinatingly, you will also find minerals like potassium, calcium, phosphorus, sodium, zinc, magnesium, iron, copper, and manganese in these insects.
Being rich in protein and other nutrients, these insects are also fit for human consumption. Yes, you read it right!
These tiny creatures fall into the category of edible insects.
Feeding Black Soldier Flies to Farm Animals
As mentioned above, black soldier fly larvae can be fed to farm animals like chickens.
The protein will help them grow, and minerals like calcium will help the birds lay better eggs.
Here are a few popular ways of feeding the larvae to chicken
Feed them live
Feeding live larvae to the chickens will help them indulge in some physical activity and make things exciting for them on the farm.
By dealing with live prey, they indulge more in their natural habits as birds.
The escaped larvae will emerge as adults and give birth to more larvae. This will create a profitable cycle for you and the birds.
Frozen larvae (thaw them before feeding)
When killing and freezing the larva, you must thaw them before feeding the chickens. Dead larvae can be easily mixed with other food to feed the chickens.
Feeding dry larvae is highly profitable, as you can store them for longer periods of time. You can dry them using the freezer or a household oven.
Is Insect Farming Sustainable?
Insect farming is becoming more popular over time and is highly sustainable.
Insects are an excellent source of calories and protein that need only the bare minimum resources like land, water, and more to flourish.
Also, since they are easily accessible, they have a much smaller carbon footprint than many types of meat.
However, insects must be farmed in a closed environment. This allows the production to be safe and efficient by controlling their feed. It also boosts food safety.
Black soldier flies might appear dirty and gross, but they are highly beneficial.
These insects are an excellent protein source for both humans and animals. Also, they are exemplary at organic waste control.
The larvae will happily consume anything you throw at them, including food waste, manure, discarded grains, and more.
Farming them can be highly profitable. Use the tips and tricks mentioned in the article to make your black soldier fly farm and earn a good profit.
Thank you for reading the article.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the benefits of black soldier fly farming?
Black soldier fly larvae are an excellent source of nutrition. They have as much as 43% protein, and they are also a great source of calcium and amino acids.
These larvae use little feed to produce a lot more meat than other insects.
Moreover, their reproduction rate is much higher than other options.
They have clean food production that is faster and cheaper.
Finally, farming these insects is easy, ethical, and environmentally friendly.
It produces little waste and takes up very little space compared to others.
Is black soldier fly larvae good for chickens?
Black soldier fly larvae make a great treat for chickens, either eaten from the hand or scattered on top of or around feeders and toys to encourage natural foraging behaviors.
It is important to remember that BSFL should not be used as a main source of nutrition; 8-10 BSFL per bird per day is plenty.
How fast does a black soldier fly grow?
Black Soldier Flies undergo four stages of metamorphosis: eggs, larvae, pupae, and adult flies.
The larval stage has six instars, during which the fly grows from about 0.07 inches to 0.78 inches before entering the pupation stage.
Larvae mostly consume organic matter and food waste during this stage, then migrate to a dry place to pupate in 8 days before emerging as adults.
Males rely on fat stores accumulated as larvae, while females lay eggs before dying within 5-6 days.
Can black soldier fly feed on cow dung?
Manure from cattle, chickens, and pigs can be converted by Black Soldier Fly larvae into a product with 40% protein and 35% fat in dry matter.
The resulting product contains 60-70% phosphorus and 30-50% nitrogen, with 21.5% lipids, including lauric, palmitic, and oleic acids, and Omega 3 fatty acids.
Adding 10% fish offal to cow manure increases the total lipid percentage by 40%, and the proportion of omega 3 increases from 0.2%-3%.
Proteins produced by BSF larvae contain threonine, valine, isoleucine, leucine, and lysine.
There are several questions regarding black soldier fly farming that our readers have asked us in recent years.
There is a lot of interest in this form of insect farming.
Some of the emails and letters from our readers are attached below for your reference.
Letter 1 – Black Soldier Fly or Window Fly
Very cool site, Got a 2-yr old who is becoming quite the little bugman ( Poor Rollie-Pollies , they dont last too long with him 🙂 ) found this Bee-Wasp on my windowsil today. Sorry about the bad pics, from a cameraphone. To me closest wasp It looked like from your site was the Crickethunter, although am not sure. Has a faint Blueish-Purpleish abdomen. Also, does it have a potent sting? Told my 2yr old to Look not touch, lol, Thanks,
First off, it irks us to no end to get identification requests without locations, so much so that we have recently threatened to place the letters directly into the trash. Your letter is the second exception we have made in twenty four hours because we love the photo. This is a Black Soldier Fly, Hermetia illucens, and Charles Hogue, in Insects of the Los Angeles Basin, calls it a Window Fly, hence the reason we love your photo, though we suspect the name Window Fly is a reference to the first abdominal segment having clear areas and not the fly frequenting windows. We find the large larvae in our compost pile in Los Angeles all the time. You can read more specifics on the Black Soldier Fly on BugGuide. By the way, if you are writing from Zanzibar, this may be a closely related species.
Letter 2 – Black Soldier Fly
Wasp-like insect Location: Portland, Oregon September 20, 2011 9:16 pm We have have dozens of this kind of bug come into our house this past summer because we have been leaving our door open. We think they might have a nest nearby but we can’t figure out what they are. I looked at many different wasp- like bugs but didn’t find anything that looks like it. It makes a loud buzzing sound and is about 1 inch long. Signature: James Hi James, Do you or does a neighbor have a nearby compost pile? This is a Black Soldier Fly and the larvae live in compost and similar habitats where they are considered beneficial since they compete with the maggots of House Flies for food. Though they look like wasps, they do not sting or bite and they are perfectly harmless. Because of the clear areas on the abdomen, the Black Soldier Fly is sometimes called a Window Fly. See BugGuide for additional information. If you do have a compost pile in the yard, you may be interested in the Black Soldier Fly Blog.
Letter 3 – Black Soldier Fly in Mount Washington
Subject: Black Flying Thing Location: Mt Washington, Los Angeles, CA June 23, 2013 10:59 pm We have no idea what this is. It just appeared on our office desk at about 10pm, just hanging out staring at the computer. Looks like a wasp, so I caught it to take some pictures in case we need to be weary of getting stung if we see them again. Thank you! Signature: Paul and Barb Dear Paul and Barb, Greetings neighbors. The offices of What’s That Bug? are on Mount Washington in Los Angeles. This is a perfectly harmless Black Soldier Fly, Hermetia illucens. They are sometimes called Window Flies because of the transparent “windows” on the abdomen. If you or a neighbor have a compost pile, you can expect to see more Black Soldier Flies as the larvae live in rotting organic materials, including compost piles. According to BugGuide: “Very rarely, accidentally ingested larvae cause intestinal myiasis in humans and domestic animals. However, larvae compete with house flies in manure, compost piles, etc., and may thus be beneficial. Adults are harmless and not known to carry any human disease.”
Letter 4 – Black Soldier Fly, AKA Window Fly
Subject: Strange bug In Austin, Texas Location: TX October 17, 2016 7:15 pm I found this bug in my gym bag on 10/13/16. I found the bug on the University of Texas at Austin campus. The bug has a long black body divided into two parts. Half of the bottom of the back is transparent. I captured the bug (because it got into my room) and released it outside. The attached photos are the bug in a plastic case. Signature: TKR Dear TKR, Because of the transparent part of the body you observed, the Black Soldier Fly, Hermetia illucens, is sometimes called a Window Fly. It is described on BugGuide as being: “Large soldier fly, all black with bright white tarsi. Underneath, first abdominal segment has clear areas. Wings have purplish sheen. Likely a wasp mimic, it buzzes loudly.” This is a harmless species that does not sting nor bite. Because of your catch and release handling of this sighting, we are tagging the posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award.
5 thoughts on “Basics Of Black Soldier Fly Farming”
It’s very rare for the flying adults to come in the house. They shy away from any and all artificial light. I have a colony going on my balcony (biopod grub composter) and the only time I ever saw an adult, was because I forgot to pay the electric bill.
Sometimes they can mature inside the house, like a piece of foodwaste that left in the garage or something.
Thanks for your first hand perspective.
It should be noted that the larvae also make an excellent food for reptiles, being naturally high in calcium! 🙂
The Black Soldier Fly Blog has set up a Black Soldier Fly Mapping Project (link) displaying the locations of confirmed BSF sightings/wild populations and seasonal data. If you’d like to contribute there’s a ‘Report BSF sighting’ link in the upper left corner of the map or you can use this link. Only locations which are submitted with adequate documentation will be used.
Thanks so much for this information. The What’s That Bug? offices are also in Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California and we have found wild Black Soldier Fly larvae in our compost pile in the past.